Monroe Boys & Girls Club going big in 2016

With his inaugural year behind him, Monroe Boys & Girls Club Unit Director Jeff Rasmussen is ready to hit the ground running in 2016 with stronger community partnerships, new programs and expanded sports offerings.

In December 2014, Rasmussen left a 15-year career in investment banking to assume the role of unit director, a position that had been vacant for more than six months. He had become familiar with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County through opportunities for community advocacy presented at his bank, and discovered that he was passionate about the organization's mission of helping youth.

When the opportunity in Monroe presented itself, it just made sense, Rasmussen said. And after having had a year to settle into the position, he said he's confident he made the right choice.-á

"I really haven't looked back since then,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said. "Being able to spend time with my family, actually being able to be more involved with the community; it is the perfect job.GÇ¥

During his initial assessment of the club and its facilities, Rasmussen received feedback from members of his staff who felt the club desperately needed a new look. Rasmussen agreed aesthetic improvements were a top priority, and began strategizing ways to make that happen.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County is a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization. Membership and childcare are offered at less than cost, so the organization relies on donations, volunteers, corporate sponsorships and grant funding to sustain its day-to-day operations. The Monroe Boys & Girls Club never turns anyone away based on inability to pay, Rasmussen said.-á

This meant he had to get creative in terms of funding the improvements. He reached out to a friend at Comcast who directed him to Comcast Cares, an annual day-of-service event to support communities. The Monroe Boys & Girls Club was selected as a Comcast Cares recipient, resulting in a massive volunteer effort by more than 200 Comcast employees.

They spent a total of two days in Monroe as they scrubbed the entire facility from floor to ceiling, added fresh paint, installed new fixtures in the restrooms, added new furniture in the teen room and created a new outdoor recreational area complete with picnic tables, raised garden beds, tetherball poles and volleyball net.-á

"Overall, it's just cleaner, and it's fresher and more vibrant,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said. "That little bit of change had a huge impact.GÇ¥

The outdoor recreational area became a popular attraction over the summer, as kids practiced their gardening skills on plants like lettuce and green beans. The space was also used by Rasmussen and athletic director Andre Graham for games and physical activity.

"We actually borrowed the tug-o-war rope from the Montessori school one day and had some pretty intense tug-o-war competitions,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said.

The club also received a $25,000 health initiative grant from United Way, which funded upgrades in the technology center and implemented Sqord, an activity based program. Similar to a Fitbit, Sqord is a device that encourages kids to be more active.

The technology upgrades, interior improvements and new outdoor recreational area were a few of the physical changes in 2015. Other changes had to do with programming, such as new activities, collaborations and guidelines for sports. The Monroe Boys & Girls Club offers team sports led by volunteer coaches, including basketball, volleyball and flag football.

In addition to being the unit director, Rasmussen coaches flag football, which was expanded last year so that more kids could play.

"We actually lowered the age to allow 4 year olds to play,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said. "It was awesome. We had such a positive response to it in the spring, there was no way we could not offer it in the fall. It was so cool to see.GÇ¥

Both flag football and volleyball are offered in the spring and fall. Basketball, the club's most popular sport, is played during the winter months. This year there are a total of 35 basketball teams, a huge increase over last year's 20. The demand for basketball is so high the club has to lease additional gym space to accommodate all the teams, Rasmussen said.-á

"Even going two courts at a time, we can't fit them all in, so we've got a great partnership with the school district and lease out some of their gyms,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said. "We're utilizing five other gyms.GÇ¥

Last year the club added parkour, a running exercise that incorporates dynamic movement through a set of obstacles. The program was well received, and the club hopes to expand parkour this year, Rasmussen said.

Along with its sports leagues, the Boys & Girls Club offers numerous structured activities and extracurricular clubs, including tech, sewing, Lego and cooking.

New this year is Club Rock, which was made possible through a partnership with local musician Conan McLemore of the Cascade Conservatory of Music. McLemore is volunteering his time to run Club Rock, which takes place 5-6:30 p.m. Thursdays. In addition to teaching kids how to play musical instruments, McLemore plans on delving into music theory, exploring the history of heavy metal.

Youths age 12 -18 are encouraged to attend and should bring their own instruments if they have them. Rasmussen is currently accepting donated instruments to help get things started.-á

Rasmussen is planning on increased collaboration in 2016, particularly with other service organizations like Cocoon House and the Monroe YMCA.

"One of my goals coming into this role was to form a good partnership with the YMCA,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said.

So far, the two organizations have co-coordinated two teen events, and have another coming up in February.

They've also become an official Safe Place, which is a Cocoon House program that targets youth in crisis. Any youth that needs help can go to any agency designated as a Safe Place and be connected to Cocoon House services by trained personnel. Training for the program is provided by Cocoon House, and all of Rasmussen's employees have successfully completed it.

In addition to encouraging kids to adopt a healthy lifestyle and explore new activities, Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County is seeking to promote civic-mindedness through its Youth Council program. Different clubs from around the region have adopted their own Youth Councils, which were tasked with identifying three things that make their communities unhealthy. Youth Councils throughout Snohomish County worked together to establish the top three issues, which are addiction, violence and relationships.

Now it will be up to the individual councils to figure out what they can do to address those three areas in order to help make their communities healthier.

One of the ways Monroe's Youth Council decided to promote good health was by taking a stand against junk food. The council first discussed eliminating junk food at the club's Snack Shack, but ended up strategizing a more flexible system that kept the candy, but added things like apples and bananas.-á

"You can't be in a youth organization and not have candy; it kind of comes with it,GÇ¥ Rasmussen said. "But we've actually changed it so candy is a lot more expensive, and the fresh fruit is very inexpensive.GÇ¥

Rasmussen sits on the Monroe City Council, the Snohomish Health District's Board of Health and the Monroe Rotary Club Board of Directors. For more information about the Boys & Girls Club, visit

Photo by Chris Hendrickson Monroe Boys & Girls Club members Sydney Garner, Ciara Hiam and Reese Bingham take a quick break from basketball practice to have their photo taken. CiaraGÇÖs dad Casey is a coach; club sports teams are made possible thanks to a large network of volunteer coaches.


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